Proof that CrossFit might be one of California's most successful exports, Salo is the first European to win the CrossFit Games. The Finnish firefighter and rescue diver completed eight WODs and emerged victorious from a field of elite international athletes.
Salo served notice to the CrossFit community early on when he nearly beat legend Chris Spealler on the trail run that opened the individual combination. If the Finn was unknown before the event, his duel with Speal immediately raised his profile.
Over the next two days, Salo kept notching consistent performances that earned him the victory.
"I'm happy. I'm really happy now," Salo said after his win. "It has been a very, very hard couple of days now."
The title came down to four athletes in the final heat: Salo, Tommy Hackenbruck, Steve Willis and Moe Kelsey all had a shot at the win. Their final WOD:
15 barbells cleans (155 lb.)
30 toes to bar
30 box jumps (24 inches)
30 push presses (40)
15 thrusters (135)
Overhead walking lunges (45)
Hackenbruck took the early lead. Salo managed a few doubles on the muscle-ups but was passed by Jason Khalipa on the way to the thrusters. The two headed to the pull-ups neck in neck, and Salo pulled away on the burpees, taking a large lead into the lunges.
The large crowd roared as he crossed the line in 19:46 with a bright red bumper held overhead, winning both the WOD and the overall title.
"It was cruel," Salo said of the last workout. "But I kept thinking, 'Next rep. Next rep. Next rep--and the end will be coming.'"
Salo was uncertain about how the WOD would play out given that he had learned how to do double-unders earlier in the afternoon.
After Salo's win, Pat Barber was clear about who did the training: "He's my athlete."
"There are amazing people here," Salo said of the fellow athletes who coached him on the new movement.
The man from Pori, Finland, is proud to be bringing the CrossFit Games title back to Europe.
"I'm very proud," he said. "CrossFit is going to be very important to grow in Europe. It's coming like a storm to Europe now, and I hope this helps it."
Salo's overall performance:
WOD 1: 2nd
WOD 2: 17th
WOD 3: 9th
WOD 4: 32nd
WOD 5: 4th
WOD 6: 11th
WOD 7: 2nd
WOD 8: 1st